Soul music, p.13
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       Soul Music, p.13

         Part #16 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 13


  consensus of the audience that the trio were lousy musicians, and therefore a suitable target, various fights had broken out because people had been hit by badly aimed missiles, or hadnt had a fight all day, or were just trying to reach the door. Susan had no difficulty in spotting Imp y Celyn. He was at the front of the stage, his face a mask of terror. Behind him was a troll, with a dwarf trying to hide behind it. She glanced at the hourglass. Just a few more seconds . . . He was really rather attractive, in a dark, curlyheaded sort of way. He looked a little elvish. And familiar. Shed felt sorry for Volf, but at least he was on a battlefield. Imp was on a stage. You didnt expect to die on stage. Im standing here with a scythe and an hourglass waiting for someone to die. Hes not much older than me and Im not supposed to do anything about it. Thats silly. And Im sure Ive seen him . . . before . . . No-one actually tried to kill musicians in the Drum. Axes were thrown and crossbows fired in a goodhumoured, easy-going way. No-one really aimed, even if they were capable of doing so. It was more fun watching people dodge. A big, red-bearded man grinned at Lias, and selected a small throwing axe from his bandolier. It was OK to throw axes at trolls. They tended to bounce off. Susan could see it all. Itd bounce off, and hit Imp. No-ones fault, really. Worse things happened at sea. Worse things happened in Ankh-Morpork all the time, often continuously. The man doesnt even mean to kill him. Its so sloppy. Thats not how things should go. Someone ought to do something about it. She reached over to grab the axe handle. SQUEAK! Shut up! Whaaauum. Imp stood like a discus thrower as the chord filled across the noisy room. It rang like an iron bar dropped on a library floor at midnight. Echoes bounced back from the corners of the room. Each one bore its own load of harmonics. It was an explosion of sound in the same way that a Hogswatchnight rocket explodes, each falling spark exploding again . . . Imps fingers caressed the strings, picking out three more chords. The axe-thrower lowered his axe. This was music that had not only escaped but had robbed a bank on the way out. It was music with its sleeves rolled up and its top button undone, raising its hat and grinning and stealing the silver. It was music that went down to the feet by way of the pelvis without paying a call on Mr Brain. The troll picked up his hammers, looked blankly at his stones, and then began to beat out a rhythm. The dwarf took a deep breath, and extracted from the horn a deep, throbbing sound. People drummed their fingers on the edge of the tables. The orang was sitting with a huge rapt grin on his face, as though hed swallowed a banana sideways. Susan looked down at the hourglass marked Imp y Celyn. The top bulb was now quite empty of sand, but something blue flickered in there. She felt tiny pin-like claws scrabble up her back and find purchase on her shoulder. The Death of Rats looked down at the glass. SQUEAK, it said, quietly. Susan still wasnt good on Rat but she thought she knew uh-oh when she heard it. Imps fingers danced over the strings, but the sound that came from them was no relative to

  the tones of harp or lute. The guitar screamed like an angel who had just discovered why it was on the wrong side. Sparks glittered on the strings. Imp himself had his eyes shut and was holding the instrument close to his chest, like a soldier holding a spear at the port. It was hard to know who was playing what. And still the music flooded out. The Librarians hair was standing on end, all over his body. The ends crackled. It made you want to kick down walls and ascend the sky on steps of fire. It made you want to pull all the switches and throw all the levers and stick your fingers in the electric socket of the universe to see what happened next. It made you want to paint your bedroom wall black and cover it with posters. Now various muscles on the Librarians body were twitching with the beat as the music earthed itself through him. There was a small party of wizards in the corner. They were watching the performance with their mouths open. And the beat strode on, and crackled from mind to mind, snapping its fingers and curling its lip. Live music. Music with rocks in it, running wild . . . Free at last! It leapt from head to head, crackling in through the ears and heading for the hindbrain. Some were more susceptible than others . . . closer to the beat . . . It was an hour later. The Librarian knuckled and swung through the midnight drizzle, head exploding with music. He landed on the lawns of Unseen University and ran into the Great Hall, hands waving wildly overhead to maintain balance. He stopped. Moonlight filtered in through the big windows, illuminating what the Archchancellor always referred to as our mighty organ, to the general embarrassment of the rest of the faculty. Rack upon rack of pipes entirely occupied one wall, looking like pillars in the gloom or possibly resembling the stalagmites of some monstrously ancient cave. Almost lost among them was the players pulpit, with its three giant keyboards and the hundred knobs for special sound effects. It wasnt often used, except for the occasional civic affair or Wizards Excuse Me. [9] But the Librarian, energetically pumping the bellows and making occasional little ooks of excitement, felt there was a lot more that it could do. A fully grown male orang-utan may look like an amiable pile of old carpets but he has a strength in him that would make a human of equivalent weight eat lots of rug. The Librarian only stopped pumping when the lever was too hot to hold and the air reservoirs were farting and whistling around the rivets. Then he swung himself up into the organists seat. The whole edifice was humming softly under the enormous pentup pressure. The Librarian locked his hands together and cracked his knuckles, which is impressive when you have as many knuckles as an orang-utan. He raised his hands. He hesitated. He lowered his hands again and pulled out the Vox Humana, the Vox Dei and the Vox Diabolica. The moan of the organ took on a more urgent tone. He raised his hands. He hesitated. He lowered his hands and pulled out all the rest of the stops, including the twelve knobs with ? on them and the two with faded labels warning in several languages that they were on no

  account to be touched, . ever, in any circumstances. He raised his hands. He raised his feet also, positioning them over some of the more perilous pedals. He shut his eyes. He sat for a moment in contemplative silence, a test pilot ready to slit the edge of the envelope in the starship Melody. He let the plangent memory of the music fill his head and flow down his arms and fill his fingers. His hands dropped. What did we do? What did we do? said Imp. Excitement ran its barefoot races up and down his spine. They were sitting in the tiny cramped room behind the bar. Glod took off his helmet and wiped the inside. Would you believe four beats to the bar, two-four time, melody led, with the bass beat forward in the melody?

  Whats all dat? said Lias. Whats all dem words mean?

  Youre a musician, aint you? said Glod. What do you think you do?

  I hits em with de hammers, said Lias, one of natures drummers. But that bit you did . . . said Imp, you know . . . in the middle . . . you know, bam-bah bam- bah bambamBAH . . . how did you know how to do that bit?

  It was just de bit dat had to go dere, said Lias. Imp looked at the guitar. Hed put it on the table. It was still playing quietly to itself, like a cat purring. Thats not a normall instrument, he said, shaking a finger at it. I was just standing there and it started pllaying all by itsellf!

  Probably belonged to a wizard, like I said, said Glod. Nah, said Lias. Never knew any wizard who was musical. Music and magic dont mix. They looked at it. Imp had never heard of an instrument that played itself before, except the legendary harp of Owen Mwnyy, which sang when danger threatened. And that had been back in the days when there were dragons around. Singing harps went well with dragons. They seemed out of place in a city with guilds and everything. The door swung open. That was . . . astonishing, boys, said Hibiscus Dunelm. Never heard anything like it! Can you come back tomorrow night? Heres your five dollars. Glod counted the coins. We did four encores, he said darkly. Id complain to the Guild, if I was you, said Hibiscus. The trio looked at the money. It looked very impressive to people whose last meal had been twenty-four hours ago. It wasnt Guild rate. On the other hand, it had been a long twenty-four hours. If you come back tomorrow, said Hibiscus, Ill make it . . . six dollars, how about that?

  Oh, wow, said Glo
d. Mustrum Ridcully was jolted upright in bed, because the bed itself was being gently vibrated across the floor. So it had happened at last! They were out to get him. The tradition of promotion in the University by filling dead mens shoes, sometimes by firstly ensuring the death of the man in those shoes, had lately ceased. This was largely because of Ridcully himself, who was big and kept himself in trim and, as three latenight aspirants to the

  Archchancellorship had found, also had very good hearing. They had been variously hung out of the window by their ankles, knocked unconscious with a shovel, and had their arm broken in two places. Besides, Ridcully was known to sleep with two loaded crossbows by his bed. He was a kind man and probably wouldnt shoot you in both ears. That sort of consideration encouraged a more patient type of wizard. Everyone dies sooner or later. They could wait. Ridcully took stock and found his first impression was mistaken. There appeared to be no murderous magic going on. There was just sound, cramming the room to every corner. Ridcully shuffled into his slippers and went out into the corridor, where other members of the faculty were milling around and blearily asking one another what the hell was happening. Plaster rained down on them from the ceiling in a steady fog. Whos causing that din? shouted Ridcully. There was a mute chorus of unheard replies, and much shrugging of shoulders. Well, I will find out, growled the Archchancellor, and set off for the stairs with the others trailing after him. He walked without his knees or elbows bending very much, a sure sign of a forthright man in a bad temper. The trio said nothing all the way out of the Drum. They said nothing all the way to Gimlets delicatessen. They said nothing while they waited in the queue, and then all they said was: So . . . right . . . thats one Quatre-rodenti with extra newts, hold the chillis, one Klatchian Hots with double salami and a Four Strata, no pitchblende. They sat down to wait. The guitar played a little four-note riff. They tried not to think about it. They tried to think about other things. I think I change my name, said Lias, eventually. I mean . . . Lias? Not a good name for the music business.

  Whatll you change it to? said Glod. I thought . . . dont laugh . . . I thought . . . Cliff? said Lias. Cliff?

  Good troll name. Very stony. Very rocky. Nothing wrong with it, said Cliff né Lias, defensively. Well . . . yes . . . but, I dunno, I mean . . . well . . . Cliff? Cant see anyone lasting long in this business with a name like Cliff.

  Better than Glod, anyway.

  Im sticking with Glod, said Glod. And Imp is sticking with Imp, right? Imp looked at the guitar. Its not right, he thought. I hardly touched it. I just . . . And I feel so tired . . . Not sure, he said, wretchedly. Not sure if Imp is the right name for . . . this music. His voice trailed off. He yawned. Imp? said Glod, after a while. Hmm? said Imp. And hed felt someone was watching him out there. That was daft, of course. He couldnt say to someone I was on stage and I thought someone was watching me. Theyd say Really? Thats really occult, that is . . .

  Imp? said Glod, whyre you snapping your fingers like that? Imp looked down. Was I?

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